I was raised in a Christian family and was the only young teenager in our small church. I remember going to church on my own one Sunday morning, when for some reason my parents didn’t come. One of the church members expressed surprise that I had come on my own, as if she thought teenagers only come to church because they have to. I remember feeling slightly shocked – of course I wanted to be there! I was the only believer in my class at school and there was no youth group, so I wanted to come to church. I needed the encouragement of meeting with other believers, the feeding for my spirit from worship, communion (breaking bread) and the quiet moments listening to God.
I continued to attend church every Sunday, wherever I was living. But one day there came a time when something changed and I found myself disliking church and not wanting to go. It coincided with a period when the church had building work done, so services were held at multiple locations for a few months. I got into the habit of not going. Today’s verse confirms that it is a habit: "let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing."
It was quite a hard job to re-establish the habit of attending church weekly, mainly because I didn’t feel like it. It just wasn’t enjoyable any more. Then I had to move churches and I struggled to get to know the people in the new church because I was frequently travelling with my work. The songs were not always the ones I liked and I found it hard to worship. It’s easy to find fault with things when you’re not enjoying church.
Then I read today’s scripture. It jumped off the page of my Bible and spoke to me – and this is what it seemed to say: The number one purpose of you attending church is so that you can encourage others. It’s not all about you and what you like! Focus on encouraging others. Consider how you can spur other people on toward love and good deeds. Encourage people and allow them to encourage you and spur you on as well.
I can’t say it was easy. I hope you never to get into this bad habit of staying at home on Sunday, but if you have done, I encourage you to seek God about how you will break it, starting right now. Why not decide you’re going to be obedient to this scripture and that you’ll be at church even if you don’t feel like it. You could ask the Lord to show you someone you can encourage - there must be someone; it might even be the pastor or vicar!
And if all else fails, you can encourage yourself, “I want to encourage you (your name). Well done for getting here today. I know it wasn’t easy for you, but you did it.” It’s good to practice giving encouragement by encouraging yourself; it’s the first step to encouraging others.
Eventually I moved house again and am really thankful to God for leading me to a lovely church in the new area, which I enjoy attending regularly. However, even writing this is a good reminder for me, not to become self-absorbed or complacent, but to look out for people who need encouragement.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the churches I have been part of in the past and for the church You’ve given me today. Please help me to be faithful and show me how I can encourage other people at church this week. In Jesus’ name Amen.
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